Sponsor Insights

September Brand Power Rankings

As we charge full-force into fall, here are the top 30 most searched brands by sponsorship executives on the SponsorUnited platform during the month of September. 

Thanks to a high-profile deal with the New England Patriots and New England Revolution, eco-friendly hand sanitizer maker Shimmy debuted at #1 on the list, after becoming the official hand sanitizer of both teams and Gillette Stadium. 

While the partnership was announced in August, the brand has seen multiple assets with the Revolution this season, including ads on the videoboard, sponsored email content, and entertainment-related content showing fans doing the “Shimmy dance” at games. The “Shimmy Cam” has also captured Patriot fans cheering on their favorite team at the stadium in past weeks. 

Another list newcomer, OOFOS, landed in the #2 spot thanks to a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders–its first sponsorship with a pro sports team in the US–that named it the team’s Official Recovery Footwear. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr also signed a multi-year partnership with the brand, highlighting how the shoes directly impact his success on the field. OOFOS currently has 11 sponsorship deals, primarily within the endurance and action sports industries.

Global tax services and software provider, Ryan LLC, made its first appearance at #3. In mid-September, ​​Dallas-based Ryan announced its inaugural MLB sponsorship, a multi-year partnership with the New York Yankees. The deal gives the brand several hospitality assets for entertaining during games, with the goal of growing its business and brand recognition in the New York metro area. 

Watch maker INVICTA, another newbie to the list ranked #4. The brand has inked multiple deals during the last two months, including a licensing deal with the NHL for the rights to create a special collection honoring hockey. The collection will include all 32 NHL teams and will be available for purchase this season, which kicks off next week. Another partnership announced in August named INVICTA Official Timekeeper of the Las Vegas Raiders and Allegiant Stadium, where activations include displays on the game clock, billboards, and pop-up stores during the team’s home games.

The following brands rounded out the top 10: 

  • Turo
  • Truff Hot Sauce
  • Apple
  • Kellogg’s
  • Intuit
  • Coca-Cola

Laver Cup | Activations

The 2022 Laver Cup was held over the weekend at O2 Arena in London, England.

ROLEX, the founding parter of the Cup, along with Mercedes-Benz AGHEAD & UPS were some of the brands activating during the tournament.

Manchester Derby Sponsorship Outlook

This Sunday, Etihad Stadium will host the 188th edition of one of the greatest football games of the season: the Manchester Derby, with both Manchester United and Manchester City vying for the win to move up the ranks of the Premier League. Off the pitch, let’s compare the teams’ endorsement deals and social media clout. 

Since 2008, when Man City was bought by the U.A.E.’s Sheikh Mansour, the team had won the Premier League 6 times.

Man City’s success has attracted a slew of brand partnerships: the team has 69 sponsorship and media deals, while Manchester United has 60. In terms of sponsorships only, Man City’s 56 deals eclipse Man U’s 30. 

Manchester United has long been considered the most popular Premier League club with the widest fan base worldwide, making them one of the more exclusive teams in the league. Man U leads the Premier League on social media with an astonishing 184.7M followers combined across all channels. Man City ranks a distant 5th by this metric with 98.2M followers. Man U also dominates in total engagement with 21.5M followers–an average of 1.9M per brand–compared to Man City’s total engagement of 8.3M and per-brand average of 270K.

In the last year, Man U’s following grew 28% (vs. 16% for Man City), thanks largely to the team’s re-signing of Portuguese superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo in August 2021. The English club gained over a million followers in the two hours after the club announced the news. 

Ronaldo’s staggering 733.1M followers across all social media–almost 3x more followers than both Manchester teams combined–make him the most followed (and arguably influential) person in not just football but in the world. His 23 deals leverage this unrivaled influence: his total engagement of 196M nets out to an average of 12.2M per brand and 2.2M per post.

Meanwhile, Man City star player Kevin De Bruyne currently has deals with 8 brands and a gross social following of 43.5M, and teammate Erling Haaland has 7 deals and tallies over 20M followers. Notably, Haaland’s posts with Dolce & Gabbana, Hyperice, Samsung, and MICROMILSPEC have racked up 10M engagements this year.

Rihanna To Perform At Super Bowl LVII

Last week, the NFL announced Apple Music as the new Super Bowl Halftime Show sponsor, replacing longtime sponsor Pepsi who leveraged the halftime show for 10 years. Superstar Rihanna was also named as the show’s headliner for the upcoming Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, on February 12, 2023.

With nearly 350M social media followers across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, Rihanna ranks 6th within music artists on social according to SponsorUnited’s recent Music Artist Report. Rihanna also ranks 6th in engagement, averaging 1.2M likes/comments/shares across her 30+ branded social posts over the last year. Her most engaged social post–with Savage x Fenty, a brand she founded with TechStyle Fashion Group–has over 5.5M engagements since January 17th. Notably, of the top 25 most engaging music artists ranked in the report, 20 are female.

Speaking of Rihanna and Savage x Fenty, music artists are increasingly betting big on their own brands–and winning. 4 of the top 5 brands with the highest social engagement during the last 12 months were Rare Beauty (Selena Gomez), JLO Beauty (Jennifer Lopez), r.e.m. beauty (Ariana Grande) and Savage x Fenty. Of the top 50 most engaging brands, those owned by artists garnered more attention.

And while music artists have long added value to Cosmetics, Clothing and Alcohol brands, artists like Timbaland, Kanye West, and Dua Lipa are already charting the future of artist ownership in new categories. 

Timbaland’s Beatclub, a digital platform for music artists, aims to revolutionize the way music makers connect. Kanye West’s sports marketing agency, Donda Sports, now represents clients like NBA star Jaylen Brown and NFL star Aaron Donald. And superstar Dua Lipa released her first weekly lifestyle newsletter, Service95, in February 2022.

Roger Federer & Serena Williams Endorsements

While the storied careers of Roger Federer and Serena Williams–two of the best tennis players in the sport’s history–have just come to an end, both athletes are primed to continue their successful sponsorship careers off the court.

With over 34M total followers each on social media, Williams is the most popular female tennis player across social media, while Federer’s following ranks second behind Rafael Nadal. Though both were wrapping up their careers, Williams’ followers increased 7% in the last 12 months, and Federer’s following grew by 3%. This year alone, Williams and Federer have 4 of the top 5 social posts (2 each) across pro tennis players, ranked by total engagement.

Both athletes will almost certainly continue to leverage their powerful social platforms for brand partnerships. Williams’ 19 deals–among them Gatorade, Nike, Ubrelvy, Audemars Piguet, and Berlei–include 65 social posts, with total engagement (likes/comments/shares) of over 6M, averaging more than 324K per brand and 82K per post. Since 2020, Williams’ sponsored posts have averaged a total engagement of over 11M per year.

Racket Sport athletes have seen a total social engagement of more than 80M this year. Over 550 brands currently utilize these athletes in campaigns, with each brand garnering average engagement of over 140K per campaign.

While Federer’s sponsored posts since 2020 have averaged a significantly lesser total engagement of 1.4M per year, he’s focused on other promotional avenues over social media. Federer–who has the most deals among men’s tennis players by a significant margin over Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray–has starred in more than 8 commercials or marketing campaigns with brands including Rolex, On-Running, Uniqlo, and Switzerland Tourism, amongst others.

Female Athletes Dominate NIL Engagement

The evolution of “name, image, and likeness” (NIL) deals in college sports has been fast and furious since the NCAA implemented a policy in July 2021 allowing incoming and current student-athletes to earn money from endorsements. Women athletes’ dominance in audience engagement within this emerging landscape warrants a closer look, and may well compel brands that traditionally gravitate toward men’s sports to revisit their marketing strategies. 

Over the last year-plus, more than 730 brands have partnered with men in college sports–more than twice the 350+ brands that have inked deals with women. But despite female athletes’ relative lack of representation so far in the collegiate NIL space, they generate 4x the total audience engagement of male athletes, and 7x more engagement per deal. 

While men have inked over 1,000 total deals with 2,000 total social media posts–compared to the 550+ deals and 1,100 posts for women–female athletes tally a total engagement score of over 27M, versus 6.5M for male athletes. Women’s posts engage followers at nearly 8x the rate of men’s posts (48K vs. 6.3K), while their percentage of engaged followers also trumps men’s, at 5.5% vs. 4.6%, respectively. 

Women are also leading the way within each sport. While NIL deals in women’s basketball lag men’s basketball by more than 100, women’s total audience engagement numbers 5.4M, compared to 3.8M for men. Meanwhile, women’s softball athletes’ engagement on social media totals 1M–nearly 10x that of male baseball players–while their average engagement per post is 5x higher.

Olivia (Livvy) Dunne, a prolific TikToker and top gymnast at LSU, is one of the most popular athletes racking up NIL deals at the collegiate level. At 6M and counting, her staggering TikTok following exceeds that of all US college and professional athletes; Dunne currently partners with 13 brands on the app, with an average engagement of 634,683 per brand. Her total social media following of more than 8M has grown 56% in the last year, with an incredible engagement rate of nearly 9%. 

Twins Hanna and Haley Cavinder, who play basketball for the University of Miami Hurricanes after transferring from Fresno State, are also scoring big in the NIL game. They’ve promoted 15 brands on their shared TikTok page for a total engagement of 1.4M, with each branded post averaging nearly 100K engagements. In December  2021, the WWE signed 15 college athletes to a partnership starring the twins.

Across NIL Partnerships, Social Media Reigns Supreme

While many brands are singling out top players to partner with, some are casting a wider net–like Hooters, which in August signed 51 offensive linemen from 10 top college football programs.

And although brands are integrating college athletes into their marketing in various ways, social media remains the top go-to tactic for them all–utilized in over 90% of NIL partnerships.

Following is a snapshot of social engagement garnered by these deals (which average 2 posts per partnership) across college sports through August 2022. Top deals are ranked by average engagement per post, with a minimum of 3 posts. 

College Football

A perennial fan favorite, college football’s NIL deals number 598 and include 1,235 posts. Total engagement across all posts was 2.7M, averaging 4,564 per deal, while average engagement per post was 1,618, with 4.17% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Braden Galloway (Athletic Brewing Company): 22,875 
  2. Shedeur Sanders (Beats by Dre): 11,244
  3. Bryce Young (Cash App): 8,490
  4. Bryce Young (Logans Roadhouse): 6,870
  5. Bryce Young (Subway): 5,873 

Gymnastics

Despite having just 52 deals with a collective 88 posts, women’s gymnastics trumps all other college sports by social engagement, with a whopping 19M across all posts, averaging 224,327 per deal. Average engagement per post was 74,776, with 5.48% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Olivia (Livvy) Dunne (Vuori Clothing): 401,619
  2. Olivia (Livvy) Dunne (American Eagle Outfitters): 259,329
  3. Olivia (Livvy) Dunne (Bartleby Technologies): 126,714
  4. Jordan Chiles (GK Elite): 7,323
  5. Elena Arenas (Starface World): 3,688

Men’s Basketball

With a total of 328 deals spanning 635 posts, men’s basketball–another high-profile fan favorite–boasts total social engagement of 3.8M, averaging 11,710 per deal. Per-post engagement averaged 4,198, with 4.54% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Adrien Nunez (Celcius): 31,376
  2. Shareef O’Neal (Savage x Fenty): 29,448
  3. Deshaun Highler (The GLD Shop): 18,880
  4. Deshaun Highler (VKTRY Gear): 12,778
  5. Jimmy Sotos (Celcius): 8,244

Women’s Basketball

At 5.4M, women’s college basketball’s total social engagement is second only to women’s gymnastics–averaging 23,163 per deal, with 234 total deals spanning 430 posts. Average engagement per post was 8,828, with 4.51% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Hanna Cavinder (PSD Underwear): 138,537
  2. Casey Ferguson (Wingstop): 76,540
  3. Jada Williams (GymShark): 49,610
  4. Zia Cooke (H&R Block): 40,050
  5. Jada Williams (Spalding): 20,764

Baseball

Though baseball’s storied standing as one of America’s all-time favorite sports is undeniable, its following at the college level–on social media, at least–pales in comparison to others’. With 52 deals encompassing 92 posts, total engagement was just 161,000, averaging 3,100 per deal. That said, its social followers–though few in number–are devoted: per-post engagement averaged 1,119, with a whopping 9.79% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Tim Elko (Raising Cane’s): 5,381
  2. Landon Sims (J. Parkerson Jewelers): 1,753
  3. Cayden Wallace (Academy Sports + Outdoors): 1,507
  4. Taylor Young (Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys): 542
  5. Steele Netterville (Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys): 356

Softball

With 83 deals encompassing 159 posts, softball’s total engagement was 1M, averaging 12,427 per deal. Average engagement per post was 4,352, with 5.17% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Lauren Burke (REVOLVE (Eminent): 12,736
  2. Montana Fouts (H&R Block): 5,614
  3. Jayda Coleman (Win Reality): 2,133
  4. Baylee Klingler (Outback Steakhouse): 1,176
  5. Kaley Mudge (Garnet & Gold): 1,058

Savvy Brands Bank on the Metaverse

In light of National Video Games Day this past Monday, let’s take a look at some unique recent activations in the gaming/Metaverse industries. 

As digital entertainment continues to evolve at lightning speed, game titles and Metaverse platforms are changing the way brands reach a younger demographic. Savvy marketers are upping their investment in virtual activations, signage, and digital assets to diversify their reach and stake a claim within these emerging virtual settings in innovative ways.

In NBA 2K23–released September 9th and the latest addition to the best-selling NBA 2K series–league partners like MTN DEW, the official soft drink of the NBA, are organically integrated within the game, expanding the breadth of their overall partnerships with the league.

Metaverse platforms like Decentraland offer brands, properties, and agencies an opportunity to invest in the Web 3.0 space and begin engaging the next generation of consumers in a dazzling new digital realm. 

Netflix, for example, teamed up with Decentraland in July to promote the release of its movie “The Gray Man,” creating a labyrinth that users navigate by proving their knowledge of the film’s plot. The virtual event also rewarded players with “The Gray Man” wearables. The same month, CBS became the first American network to enter Decentraland with its hit comedy “Ghosts,” creating an immersive experience that allows fans to experience the show and its haunted mansion as never before. 

Meanwhile, the MTV Video Music Awards debuted a virtual experience on online game platform Roblox this year, and added a new category to the awards show to recognize the best musical performance in the Metaverse. And in May, Spotify became the first music streaming brand to publish its own game on Roblox with the launch of “Spotify Island,” a unique experience that involves K-Pop music in the gameplay.

Music Artist Report Reveals Social Media’s Reach

SponsorUnited’s inaugural Music Artist Report, released yesterday, delivers an in-depth analysis of over 2,100 brands and 1,100 deals from July 2021-July 2022, unlocking 10 major music genres and telling the stories of nearly 600 artists. 

Here’s a peek at some of the report’s key insights: 

Country music’s most popular performers have attracted the most eyeballs across the SponsorUnited platform.

In addition, Country stars average more deals per artist than any other genre, with the number of brands partnering with them rising 45% since 2020. 

Their seemingly unstoppable momentum continues: Over 35% of SponsorUnited searches among music artists were Country, with Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Luke Combs, and George Strait ranking among the top five most searched artists.

Music artists are betting big on their own brands—and winning

Of the top 50 most engaging brands, those owned by artists garnered the most attention.Four of the top five brands with the highest social engagement were beauty brands owned by superstars: 

  • Rare Beauty (Selena Gomez)
  • JLO Beauty (Jennifer Lopez) 
  • r.e.m. beauty (Ariana Grande) 
  • Savage x Fenty (Rihanna)

Music moves fans like no other league, team or property can.

Not surprisingly, artists’ success on social media plays a key role in driving performance of their brands. When comparing per-post engagement among a variety of property types, musicians top the leaderboard with an average engagement per post of 137K, versus 100K for general celebrities in the second-place spot. 

Artist-owned companies are expanding into new categories. 

While music artists have long added value to Cosmetics, Clothing and Alcohol brands, artists like Timbaland, Kanye West and Dua Lipa are already charting the future of artist ownership in new categories:

  • Timbaland x Beatclub: The innovative digital platform aims to revolutionize the way music makers connect.
  • Kanye West x Donda Sports: Kanye’s sports marketing agency now includes clients like NBA star Jaylen Brown and NFL standout Aaron Donald.
  • Dua Lipa x Service95: Dua Lipa released her first weekly lifestyle newsletter in February 2022.

Latin artists see massive growth from global music fans.

Among the top 40 fastest growing social accounts, 12 were owned by Latin artists. Combined, these artists gained over 250M followers–2.5x more than Rap/Hip-Hop and 3.5x more than Country, and second only to Pop. With Latin music’s total revenue projected at over $1B this year, expect to see US brands continue to team up with these red-hot performers. 

Case in point: Bad Bunny, Spotify’s most streamed artist globally in 2020 and 2021. During his El Último Tour Del Mundo this year, he partnered with Airbnb to open the doors to his truck for three one-night stays for two guests at just $91 per night—a nod to his record-breaking 9.1B Spotify streams in 2021. Guests had the exclusive opportunity to explore Bad Bunny’s past, present and future, both on and off the stage.

Music Artist Report

SponsorUnited Unveils Inaugural Music Artist Report

DOWNLOAD REPORT: https://sponsorunited.com/music-artist-report-2022/

Social media drives new and innovative partnerships in an industry forecast to more than double in value to over $53 billion by 2030.
 

Just released, the first Music Artist Marketing Partnerships Report. This inaugural report delivers an in-depth analysis of over 2,100 brands and 1,100 deals from July 2021-July 2022, the report unlocks 10 major music genres and tells the stories of nearly 600 artists. 

Key findings include:

  • Bon Iver, Steve Aoki, Saweetie, Snoop Dogg and J. Balvin top the ranks for most brand partnerships by music artists.
    Among these top 5, Organizations & Groups dominated the category list with a third of all deals–2x more than Technology and 3x more than Apparel.
  • T-Mobile is one of the few brands hitting all the right notes.
    The only company on the SU platform with sponsorships across six different music genres, the wireless giant was most active in Country, with deals including Dolly Parton, Chris Young, Old Dominion and more.
  • Social media engagement emerges as a driving force for attracting brand partnerships.
    Pop music artists generated the highest average engagement and partnered with the most brands, followed by Rap/Hip-Hop in second place and Country in third.
  • Country artists surged as the most popular searched by sponsorship executives.
    Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood and Luke Combs were the top 3 most searched artists on the SponsorUnited platform.
  • Music artists gained over 3.2B new followers.
    1.5B followers on Instagram, nearly 1B on TikTok, more than 682M on Facebook, and just 122M on Twitter.
  • Latin artists saw massive social growth from fans around the globe.
    Among the top 40 fastest growing social accounts, 12 were owned by Latin artists. Combined, the Latin genre gained 250M followers–2.5x more than Rap/Hip-Hop and 3.5x more than Country.